By Christian Research Network Associate Editor Erin Benziger of Do Not Be Surprised…
This is a repost of an original article on Do Not Be Surprised…


Each year, Alpha Course director Nicky Gumbel hosts a leadership conference at his home church of Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) in London. Well-known and charismatic leaders from various walks of life and differing faiths are invited to share with attendees their insights into leadership and influence. The conference website bills the event as follows:


Since the purpose of the HTB Leadership Conference is to “come together to worship God” while also learning new skills in the realm of leadership endeavors, it is evident that this event seeks to bill itself as a Christian one, in spite of its ecumenical characteristics.

One of the speakers at last year’s conference was Tony Blair, founder of the ecumenical Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which seeks to “promote respect and understanding about the world’s major religions and show how faith is a powerful force for good in the modern world,” regardless, it seems, of which religion or faith that might be. The Christian who holds the Bible as his authority, however, knows that such spiritual endeavors ought never to be attempted.

What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:15)

Other speakers for the 2012 Conference included Judah Smith, Lead Pastor of The City Church in Seattle, Washington, Christine Caine, founder of the A21 Campaign, and Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church. Warren is a member of the Advisory Council for Blair’s Faith Foundation andendorses Nicky Gumbel’s Alpha Course. He also is no stranger to the interfaith movement. Speaking in 2009 to the Islamic Society of North America, Warren stated:

And I will tell you that I am not interested in interfaith dialogue, I am interested in interfaith projects. There is a big difference. Talk is very cheap. And you can talk and talk and talk and not get anything done. Love is something you do. It is something that we do together. Love is a verb. Now as the two largest faiths on this planet, Muslims and Christians, we must lead in this. We must lead. With over one billion Muslims, and over 2 billion Christians, together, as half the world, we have to do something, about modeling what it means to live in peace, to live in harmony. (Source)

The 2012 HTB Leadership Conference certainly appeared to be advocating interfaith efforts with its speaker lineup and discussions. The upcoming 2013 conference again offers a curious gathering of speakers:


It is not the matter of interfaith endeavors that shall be discussed from this point forward, however. Nor shall time be taken to lament the inclusion of American megachurch, seeker-driven pastors Steven Furtick and Bill Hybels. Most are quite familiar with the dangers of the teachings of these two men and, if not, much information can readily be found at this site and others.

Rather, with the growing popularity of Nicky Gumbel’s Alpha Course, it seems pertinent to visit briefly with scheduled speaker Eleanor Mumford. The biography of Mumford offered by the conference website is brief:

The biography for Eleanor Mumford and her husband, John, on their own Vineyard Churches website, however, is far more extensive. Several pages are spent detailing the Mumfords’ first encounter with John Wimber, founder of the charismatic Vineyard movement in America. Sharing with the interviewer Wimber’s staunch opposition to the Mumford’s alleged call from God to plant a church in the UK, Mumford shares how it is that the Vineyard movement finally made its way across the pond by means of her and her husband:

Eleanor smiles, “It was only in the last few months that the Lord did speak to Wimber and he acquiesced at a particular meeting in which the entire Vineyard board had gathered. It was very important to us that they should all feel it was appropriate for us to go and plant a church, and they did. Wimber and the others prayed for us, and I remember Wimber praying, ‘Lord God, we have done everything we know how to stop this, we have put every obstacle in their way, and every time Lord God you have overturned it. Therefore, we take it that it is you, and we are going to go with this thing.’ Deep in our hearts we had always known it would be a church, a British Vineyard movement. (Source)

Indeed, the Mumford’s did found what has become the largest movement of Vineyard Churches across the UK.

In 1994, as the Toronto Blessing was sweeping across eastern Canada, Eleanor Mumford traveled to the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church (now Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship) to witness this phenomenon that was being touted as a move of the Holy Spirit. According to Mumford, she witnessed people afflicted by uncontrollable laughter, healings and other supernatural phenomena. In short, it seems that Mumford witnessed a great many people ‘drunk in the Spirit’ as it has come to be called.

It’s been said that Eleanor Mumford brought the Toronto Blessing (TB) back to the UK upon her return from the source. At the time, Nicky Gumbel was serving as curate of Holy Trinity Brompton and he happened to be a recipient of this ‘power’.

The book, Welcoming a Visitation of the Holy Spirit by Wesley Campbell details the events that followed:

Upon arriving home, Eleanor’s testimony electrified all who heard it. On the Tuesday morning of May 24, 1994, John and Elli gathered some staff members and friends to share what God was doing. Elli described how she had seen God move and how He had met her. With fresh faith, they all prayed, asking God to come and fill them. Within moments everyone present was powerfully touched. Nicky Gumbel, curate at Holy Trinity Brompton Church, was present at this meeting which had lasted through his church’s scheduled staff lunch. He rushed back to his own office just in time for the closing of that meeting. They asked Nicky to give a concluding prayer. Again the power of Holy Spirit working in the transference of ministry was undeniable as now, in his Anglican church office, the staff members fell under the weight of God. The church newspaper, ‘HTB in Focus’, wrote:

The Holy Spirit touched all those present in ways few had ever experienced or seen. Staff members walking past the room were also affected. Prayer was still continuing after 5 pm.

Somewhere during the course of this holy outpouring, a secretary managed to get an emergency call off to the senior vicar, Sandy Millar. “Sandy,” she sputtered, “I know you said not to bother you and that you are in a very important meeting, but Sandy, I just thought you should know that your entire staff is incapacitated and lying on the floor.”

(Wesley Campbell, Welcoming a Visitation of the Holy Spirit, (Charisma House: 1996), 27, 28).

The conversation between Millar and his secretary can be heard below as told by Millar himself only a few days later as he introduces Mumford as a speaker at HTB’s Sunday services. It is clear from his compliments that Millar held Mumford and her husband in high esteem. A partial transcript follows the clip:

I’ve never had such a message in my life. I was at a very serious meeting in the Evangelical Alliance, and we were talking about very serious things. And the telephone went, and Clive Calver, who’s the chairman of the Evangelical Alliance, went and answered it and then he looked over at me, and he said “It’s for you,” he said, “and it’s urgent.” So I said, “Oh, thank you very much.” And I went over and I took the call, and this was Glenda. Now Glenda works here most of the time — by which I mean she wasn’t working that afternoon, and she said, “Oh hello,” she said, “I’m sorry to interrupt the meeting,” she said, “but I thought you ought to know that the entire staff is slain in the Spirit and lying on the floor.” And these other seven solemn men and women were watching me because they wanted to know what this urgent news was, and they hoped it wasn’t too serious. I wasn’t quite ready to tell them, because I wasn’t quite sure what it meant. So I just said to Glenda, oh, you have to be careful nowadays, I said to Glenda, “Is that a good thing?” And she said, “Yes, it’s a very good thing, indeed.” So I said, ” Well what are you doing on the telephone then?” So she said “Well, I’ll tell you,” she said…. She said, “I have crawled to the telephone on my hands and knees.” So I managed to look solemn for another minute and I said “thank you very much. I will get back as soon as I can.” (Source)

All that has been recounted occurred on 24 May 1994. Immediately, Eleanor Mumford was asked to speak at Sunday services at Holy Trinity Brompton. She agreed, and spoke at both the morning and the evening service. It is said that, following both talks, Mumford asked the Holy Spirit to come.

Wallace Boulton in The Impact Of Toronto (Crowborough: Monarch, 1994), p. 21, wrote of the morning service: “There was a time of silence. Then slowly, members of the congregation began to cry quietly, and some to laugh. As the Holy Spirit came, Eleanor asked people to come forward if they wanted prayer. Many did so. As Eleanor’s team and members of the church ministry team started to pray, people began to fall in the power of the Spirit. Soon the whole church was affected. There were scenes that few had ever seen before. The children arrived from their own groups and may of them were deeply touched and began praying for each other.” People lingered for a long time after each service. (Source)

Audio of Mumford’s talk on the evening of 29 May 1994 still is available. Below can be found excerpts of this message, with accompanying transcripts:

And Sandy mentioned to you that I’ve just got back from a little holiday. And in fact, my husband generously suggested, and I enthusiastically agreed, and then with much grace, the Lord gave me a word through somebody quite independently of us within the church that I should take a little trip to Toronto, which I did, for three days. And I met a very dear friend from Anaheim and we met at Toronto airport and caused a bit of a scene. And then we got our little car and trooped off to the frightful little hotel in the middle of nowhere and then we made our way to this improbable little church….

I could keep you all night, she said tantalizingly, with stories of the things that are going on, both there, and indeed in our own church in the course of the last week. The most wonderful things are happening. And the most ordinary and normative people are behaving in the most abnormal way. But it is so delightful, and so freeing, and so healing, and we’ve laughed like we’ve never laughed before, and God is bringing healing to our bodies and into our hearts just by laughter. It says in the proverbs that laughter is like medicine to the soul, and so it’s proven to be. And when I was in Toronto, I was at a pastors’ seminar, and the place was full of weary pastors. Men and women who had become weary in well-doing. And who had crawled to Toronto to meet the Lord. And many of them testified to the things that God had done. And there was one middle-aged man who had been laboring as a pastor for twenty, twenty-five years. And he came to Toronto and the Lord fell on him and he became as drunk as a newt for days. And after several days he recovered himself enough to get back to the microphone, and he was asked to give a testimony, which he did, I might say, in a very incoherent fashion, and then they said to him, “May we pray for you more?” And he said, “I’d love it,” and out he went, rolling around the floor as though he’d just walked out …. He was just out of his mind. And it was a wonderful, wonderful thing to see. And in my history, and in my own family, I have seen drunkenness to a degree in my past which has so grieved and offended me that I’d never been able to watch drunkenness. I can’t look at it in the street, I can’t look at it on the television. It offends and it breaks my heart, because I’ve seen too much of the real thing. And in the course of those three days at Toronto, God healed me of all that anguish and all that past as I saw the real thing and I saw what it was to be drunk in the Spirit. It was a sweet and wonderful thing.

There was a young pastor who arrived rather intense. You know how they are? Intense, and well-meaning. And he came with his notebook, with his file-a-fax, and his pen, and he was ready to take notes of everything that was happening. And he was such a zealous, wonderful young man. But he was very controlled and very all together. For a day or two. And he just soaked in the presence of the Lord. And then after two or three days he started to shake, and to rattle, and to roll, and to twitch, and to laugh, and he went home to his wife, and she said there’s no way he can sleep in the same bed. She couldn’t sleep. He was shaking and twitching. He had to take up residence on the couch. And then after several days he decided it was time to get his act together, and like all good pastors he felt, well, we need a bulletin on Sunday, we need a newsletter, we need all of these things. So he decided to type out the newsletter. And as he got to announcing some hymn or something which said “Come, Holy Spirit,” he typed out “Come, Holy Spirit.” Peuhh — he was gone. Under the power of God, and he was out. Out like a light. And I thought, “Well, that’s bizarre. That’s emotional. That can’t be.” So on the way home on the plane, I was writing up notes, ’cause I needed to have things to tell people — I was so full of stuff, and I couldn’t bear to miss any. As I was writing things down, and I wrote about this amusing pastor that I had met, and I wrote how he had put “Come, Holy Spirit,” and as I did, the Spirit of God fell on me. In the middle of Air France. And it was most wonderful. Wonderful.

I heard a story just this afternoon of a woman who had left a meeting rather as I had done, but she was reeling, and unwisely, she decided to drive home. This is in America, and she drove up the freeway, and she was all over the place, and she was stopped by the police. Honest to God, this is true. She was stopped by the police, and she got out of the car, and the policeman said, “Madam, I have reason to believe that you’re completely drunk.” And she said, “Yes, you’re right.” So he said, “Well, I need to breathalize you,” so he got his little bag, and as she started to blow into it, she just fell to the ground laughing. At which point, the policeman fell, too, and the power of God fell on him, and he and she were rolling on the freeway laughing under the power of God. And he said, lady, I don’t know what you’ve got, but I need it, and he came to church the next week and he found Jesus. He got saved.


Does it not seem odd that God, in His purity and in His holiness, would manifest His power in such a way as to simulate sinful behavior? The Bible clearly condemns drunkenness, and speaks of the fact that it leads to ignoble conduct.

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:18)

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them! (Isaiah 5:11)

Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise. (Proverbs 20:1)

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. (1 Corinthians 5:11)

How, then, is God glorified by causing people to behave as though they are utterly drunk and incoherent? He is not glorified by such a thing because such manifestations are not of God.

The children are going into the schools, and they’re being sent home in numbers because of shaking. And they’re coming home with medical notes asking that they get tested for epilepsy, because the power of God is so strong on the children in the schools. (Source)

One wonders if Ms. Mumford ever considered the following?

And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. (Matthew 17:14-15)

This is not to say that cases of medically diagnosed epilepsy actually are demon possession. The point here is that, in Scripture, the manifestations that Mumford celebrates as a move of the Holy Spirit are associated instead with demonic activity.

All of this occurred in 1994, and is merely a sampling of the words Mumford shared that day at HTB. Today, Nicky Gumbel is vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton and he still holds Ms. Mumford in high regard. This is evidenced in part by his invitation to her to speak at the HTB Leadership Conference, and is affirmed by Gumbel’s introduction of Mumford in the video clip below. Mumford has spoken at HTB Sunday services since 1994, most recently in 2011, wherein she used her 39 minutes of time to share various stories and anecdotes that allegedly prove the miraculous workings of the Holy Spirit.

To Mumford’s claim of this miraculous healing aboard a bus in Norway, one may rightly ask, ‘Where is the proof?’ Surely in these days of camera phones and social media someone must have captured the phenomenon of this child’s lip healing before its mother’s eyes! Yet, for all of the signs and wonders claimed by these chaotically charismatic advocates, there is very little evidence for the miracles they claim beyond mere hearsay.

Nevertheless, it is this thought that has so greatly influenced Nicky Gumbel, Holy Trinity Brompton Church and even The Alpha Course. Alpha’s roots of mysticism have been thoroughly exposed, though it is feared that they are buried even deeper than what has been revealed. Gumbel’s invitation of Mumford to his global leadership conference demonstrates that he has not strayed from affirming the claims and teachings set forth by this leader of the UK Vineyard Movement.

It cannot easily be denied, then, that such thought also continues to permeate and influence The Alpha Course, a program which has infiltrated 169 countries and has been attended by nearly 19 million people. Is The Alpha Course simply a safe, non-confrontational, friendly and innocuous introduction to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Is it teaching the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith, or is it instead introducing millions to deceptive doctrines of demons (1 Tim. 4:1)?

Further Reading
The Influence of Christian Mystics Morton Kelsey and John Wimber on The Alpha Course
The Ecumenical Compromise of The Alpha Course
Nicky Gumbel to Alpha Course Attendees: “Go Back to Your Catholic Parish”

The original appears here.

Further reading